Record Number of Candidates Could Indicate Another Swing of the Pendulum for Peninsula Community Planning Board

by on March 11, 2019 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Peninsula Community Planning Board events don’t usually spark a great deal of interest in the general community, that is just a fact.

But, from time to time, things do get interesting. During a dozen years of experience with the Peninsula Board (PCPB), “control” of the board has swung back and forth like a pendulum. By control, it could be said that it is based on political bias or it could be class-based or something else, but there always seems to be two sides.  Judging by the record number of candidates running for the open seats on March 21, there could be another swing.

Usually, it takes a big amount of discontent about something to pull off a major change in the planning board.

Most of the discontent at this time seems to be coming from the community group mobilized to prevent development in what is referred to as Famosa Canyon.  This group has openly expressed its disappointment with the PCPB for a position it took, and a position it won’t take, regarding the proposal to build affordable housing on the property.  Famosa Canyon is south of Famosa Blvd and east of Nimitz, across Famosa Blvd. from Bill Cleator Park.

The PCPB had written and sent a letter in June 2017 suggesting the Famosa site as favorable for building affordable housing.  In 2018, the community adjacent to the property, Park Point Loma, discovered that the Housing Commission was quietly working on a plan to build 78 units at the site. It was then that the opponents discovered the PCPB letter and they were not happy. They wanted the PCPB to rescind that letter and to their credit, the PCPB did rescind it with the admission that they had not sought sufficient public input for the position.

But, the PCPB did not go far enough in its rescission letter for the Save Famosa Canyon group because the PCPB decided to stay neutral until a project came before it.  There appeared to be several candidates from this group running for open seats.

There has been additional criticism about the board members as a group that is top heavy with professionals like architects, lawyers, and real estate people who are allegedly too developer friendly.  Valid or not, that is a sentiment that several audience members have voiced during recent meetings.

If there is a big enough wave of people who want the see the PCPB change hands because of Famosa and because of a desire to unseat some professionals, it will show in the results.

The Candidate Forum was held on Thursday, March 7 from 6:00 to 8:00 at the Point Loma Library. There were 19 candidates for the seven open seats.  Each year, five seats are elected.  This year, the PCPB also needs to fill a two-year and a one-year term resulting from resignations. This many candidates is a record for recent history and a clear indication of the struggle this election will be.

The candidates were asked to introduce themselves one by one and say a few words.  Then, the candidates were each given more time to talk about themselves and explain why they were running. It was a diverse group of people – it even included a former board member who had to resign only months ago due to complaint filed against her by a community member.

Apparently, there is nothing in the PCPB by-laws, or other guiding documents, to prevent a board member, who resigns a seat before completing a term, from running again in the next election. Margaret Virissimo had to resign from the PCPB when faced with a complaint that said she had lied on her PCPB candidate application about having a college degree and a charity she claimed to have founded.  When confronted with that and copies of personal messages that were very offensive, Virissimo chose to resign.  The complaint and the board report on this can be obtained from the PCPB as these are public documents.

Virissimo was at the Candidate Forum. But, as soon as the last candidate finished speaking his few introductory minutes and the question and answer period was to start, Virissimo left the room and did not return. She was the only candidate that left, making it impossible to ask her any direct questions. But, who knows, if this feeling of the ground shifting is correct, and in the day of what we have in the White House, even a flawed candidate like Virissimo could get elected.

One of the original candidates dropped out immediately reducing the field to merely 18.  Of that number, 13 candidates attended the forum. Brief details of each candidate that attended the forum follow at the end of this article.

After the candidates had their say, some questions were floated. The first question was from board member James Hare sitting in the audience.  Hare asked what would be good and bad about giving planning boards the power to actually deny development projects, a power they do not now have. The answers were generally that this was not a good idea that the planning boards needed to work with everyone instead. To put it simply, no one but this reporter, one of the 18 candidates, thought it would be a good idea.

There was a question about any interest in the airport that did not generate a lot other than the usual complaints.  It was pointed out that two candidates were not in attendance that would have an interest in airport issues.  One was Paul Webb, long time former PCPB member who chaired the Airport subcommittee, regularly attended airport meetings, and had deep experience in aviation.  The other was an airline pilot who had submitted an application.  The PCPB had a pilot on the board at one time and found the expertise very useful.

There was a question about sea level rise and what might the board do.  That one was a bit beyond the board’s purview, other than continuing to work on climate issues.

There was a question about the Liberty Station subcommittee that had grown dormant in recent years.  The PCPB was once very heavily involved in Liberty Station, which may have generated a coup years ago that saw the PCPB taken over by conservative interests silencing the Liberty Station critics.  It was agreed that the subcommittee needed to be enlivened because of the lease change at Liberty Station and the plans of the newcomers.  As with McMillin, it was understood that someone needed to keep an eye on the new operators to ensure that they followed the plan set for Liberty Station.

One person asked everyone for a yes or no answer.  The question was whether or not a candidate was on a slate of candidates or a member of an organized group for the election.  Everyone said no. An organized slate of candidates is prohibited by the PCPB by-laws.  Virissimo was part of a slate when elected two years ago and was told it was not allowed.  Apparently, she forgot that, despite being warned at the 2017 Candidate Forum, because she put out a slate.  Her behavior during the election generated a complaint that the PCPB failed to act on.

A question was asked about how many regular board meetings the candidates had attended.  The answers were unnecessary from incumbents running for a seat, for former board members, and for Korla Eaquinta who was known to be a regular member of the audience for years.  However, three of the new candidates stated that the Candidate Forum was the first meeting they had attended.  The forum does not resemble a regular meeting in any way leaving one wondering how these three knew what they were getting onto.

The PCPB by-laws require candidates to attend at least one regular meeting by February before the March elections.  Technically these three people have not met the attendance requirement but the PCPB has decided to count the forum as a qualifying meeting. That still begs the question of why, or how, a person could run for a seat on a board having never even witnessed a regular meeting.

Finally, a question was asked of this reporter alone.  The question was whether or not I would still be writing stories for the OB Rag about the PCPB if elected to the board.  The answer was that the question would be put to the PCPB for a decision.

Candidate applications can be found here.

Here is a brief introduction of each candidate that was at the forum.  Applications of the candidates that did not attend the forum can be viewed at the link.

Mandy Havlik – She described herself as a Navy wife with two small children. As a young mother she is concerned with quality of life issues. She is part of the group that is trying to save Famosa Canyon and is unhappy with the PCPB.

Brad Herrin – He is one of the incumbents running and is a real estate professional and is a 3rd generation Point Loma resident. He has focused on traffic issues as chair of the Traffic and Transportation subcommittee during his tenure.

Korla Eaquinta – A community member who has attended years of PCPB meetings as an audience member and has served as a community member of several PCPB subcommittees.  She has lived in Roseville for 32 years and developments in her area concern her among other things.

Robert Goldyn – The current PCPB chair, is running for another term.  He is an architect by profession with a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in architecture. He has put much of his effort into the PCPB’s Long Range Planning subcommittee.  He is interested in mobility among other aspects of modern development.

Jarvis Ross – Long time PCPB member and participant.  Jarvis was a board member for many years and has stayed involved in subcommittees. He is concerned about the environment, traffic, density, and public transportation.  Jarvis comes from the northeast corner of the PCPB boundaries and has been the only community member to ever represent that area.

This reporter.

Eva Schmitt – A physician’s assistant.  She said that the height limit, short term vacation rentals, traffic, and housing affordability for young people were her concerns.  She said she believed her skills at listening gained from her profession were an asset in listening to the public.

Emma Plagemann – Her education and background are in architecture, currently working as a marketing coordinator.  She explained that she and her husband deliberately searched for a place to relocate from West Virginia and chose San Diego after one brief business trip. Having lived with air pollution in West Virginia, she said she was concerned about aircraft pollution.

Aaron Taylor – Bachelor of Science in physics, very much interested in environmental issues and a member of groups such as Surfrider and the Sunset Cliffs Park Council. Mentioned being in the fight to ban Styrofoam and wants to see a ban on plastic straws.

Lucky Morrison – Retired VA nurse, a number of years of involvement in North Park groups where he lived before moving to Point Loma, including six years on the North Park Planning Committee.  Also part of the Save Famosa Canyon group and also critical of the board’s allegedly developer-friendly members.  Would like to see more representation from residents of the community and fewer professionals.

Margaret Virissimo – Said she decided to run again because she was encouraged to do so by friends and family. She has characterized herself as a victim and what happened with her and the PCPB as unfair.  She has supporters despite her transgressions that got her removed from the PCPB only months ago.

Jesse Chandler Benson – Background in the culinary business. A local resident and heavily involved in the Save Famosa Canyon group. Spoke passionately about open space and about citizens having a voice in what is happening around them.

Jon Schmid – Owns a marketing firm, concerned with homeless, housing, mobility, and jobs. Active in the Natural History Museum, the Maritime Museum, the yearly Parade of Lights, and is an elder in his church.

Board Election

The Board election is March 21, 2019 from 4 to 8pm and is held at the Point Loma Library.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar micporte March 12, 2019 at 7:20 am

fake news, fake candidates, hidden agendas, welcome to the new beach.. what I know from years of attending Pacific Beach planning board meetings is newbies who volunteer to try to close their street to beach traffic, or get clients for their real estate business, other newbies who want to start tax franchises (MAD’s) to hang over priced flower baskets on the street for the drunks to knock down, oldies/retirees who dream of the good old days, and general power mongers who wanna keep the power because they are used to it…. and a general absence from the rest of the people. One thing I’ve learned from 60 years on this planet is that “the common enemy” is a more powerful motivator than “the common good, ” and the question is, as always, what is good and what is the enemy?

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OB Joe OB Joe March 13, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Man, micporte, you just crapped all over this story and every candidate who ever runs for a local advisory panel; sorry you had a bad experience in PB.

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Avatar dajohn March 13, 2019 at 5:52 am

And the rag promoted the “save fomosoa canyon” nimby crying fest. Now these same whiners are going to get elected and have a one track mind and not care about real issues. Too bad.

It’s weird this article doesn’t not that Geoff Page ran for a seat on this same board last year, seems pertinent.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 13, 2019 at 11:32 am

dajohn, I’m running in this election too. If you look at the list of candidates, I wrote This Reporter but did not say anything about myself. I also made that clear in the last paragraph before the candidate applications link. I made a point of not pumping myself in this story because I didn’t think that would be appropriate.

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Avatar Lyle March 13, 2019 at 8:46 am

Thank you Geoff Paige for writing this article which is the only thing I’ve seen in the media that helps me to decide who to vote for, a little bit at least. The above comments don’t help me at all.

My question to the above commentors is “Who would you vote for (and why?), if you were to vote ?”

Also please note that the election organizers will be checking id’s to make sure voters are actually residents or business owners within the Peninsula Planning district.

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Geoff Page Geoff Page March 13, 2019 at 11:37 am

Lyle, I’m sorry but there is not a lot of information about each candidate. The applications we linked to might help a bit. I can’t personally say who all I’d vote for because, being a candidate myself, that could be seen as promoting a slate. I like several people but I will mention one that I think really deserves to get a seat, Korla Eaquinta. This lady has faithfully attended meetings for years as I mentioned and has participated on subcommittees too. She has demonstrated a strong interest in the board by that attendance record and she fully understands how the board operates. This is the kind of person we want on the planning board.

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